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Court will intervene if NAB amendments violate fundamental rights: SC

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Friday said if amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law are “in conflict with the fundamental rights of the people” then the top court will intervene and examine the matter. SC also directed the accountability watchdog to submit its response over the matter.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah heard the former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s petition against the NAB law amendments.

During the course of proceedings, Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman said Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan had been nominated as the federal government’s counsel in the case, who was then granted permission to present his arguments, whereas Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman was represented by Advocate Khawaja Harris.

During the hearing, Imran’s lawyer contended before the court that after the amendments, all the cases of possessing assets beyond means and misusing powers will be discarded.

Makhdoom Ali Khan said neither the bar councils nor the civil society had raised any objection to the NAB law amendments.

Upon this, Advocate Khawaja Haris, counsel for Imran Khan, pointed out that the Islamabad Bar Council had challenged the amendments in the high court.

Responding to the argument, Justice Shah said if the opposition has a problem with the amendments being made to the NAB law then they should pass a bill in the National Assembly. Terming the parliament’s role as crucial, he added that if the parliament makes a law then it must be respected.

Makhdoom said efforts were being made to turn the Supreme Court into the third chamber of parliament. Several NAB cases had been fought over the years and the honorable judges knew what happened in the assets-beyond-means cases, he added.

Justice Ijaz said the court was not looking into who had introduced the law, but whether it violated fundamental rights.

Justice Ahsan remarked that if the public’s money was used for corruption then fundamental rights of the people have been violated and the court can look into the matter.

Replying to the judge, the government’s lawyer highlighted how Imran made the same amendments through an ordinance. “If he was agreeing to it the past then why is he opposing it now,” Makhdoom questioned. “How did the President’s letter to the PM become part of the petition?”

Hearing all the arguments, the CJ Bandial said the apex court has to look at the public interest as well keeping in mind that the country’s economy is on the verge of destruction.

Justice Ijaz asked whether the bill would be included in the record of the court’s proceedings. The clause on keeping corruption amounting to less than Rs 500 million outside the jurisdiction of NAB was included in the first amendment, he added.

Khawaja Haris said he had submitted an additional request in that regard and highlighted that the clause could have grave consequences.

Justice Mansoor said the petition would have to be amended to challenge the bill.

Makhdoom Ali Khan said the new law could not be challenged until it became an act of the parliament.

He said if the president did not sign the new amendment, the matter would go to a joint session. It was too early to say whether the recent amendment to the NAB law would be approved in the joint session, he added.

Upon this, the chief justice said the case was one in which the court would not act in haste.

He said elections themselves were a form of accountability as during the polls, the people held their leaders answerable.

Khawaja Haris said even the present amendments were a violation of the constitutional mandate. The laws opposing the basic structure of the Constitution could be challenged.

Case has been adjourned till August 19.

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